How do we respond to strangers? We usually maintain our reserve. We might be polite even while we remain unconcerned. And we are probably at least a little afraid. Behind this person’s face might lurk a sick mind, even a criminal mind. Who knows what would happen if we let this person into our lives?
What is a stranger? He is someone who is strange to us because he is an outsider. He is not part of the circle of our lives. As such there is a great gap that lies between us and him, and this gap results in at least three things: a lack of a feeling of closeness, a sense that he does not matter (or at least is not our concern), and fear. Aren’t these what we feel in relation to strangers?
Sometimes when I am reacting this way to a stranger, I find myself thinking how, if this person became a part of my life, that reaction would change. I might feel close to her. She might suddenly seem important to me. I might feel comfortable around her. Yet she is the exact same person she was before. Why would I respond to her so differently when she hasn’t changed? It all seems so arbitrary.
A Course in Miracles teaches an idea that can sound shocking at first. It says that in reality there is no such thing as a stranger, for there is no actual gap between us. We seem to be separate bits of mind stuck away inside different bodies, but in truth we are one (an idea that is taught by many spiritual traditions). And if we are one, then, somewhere inside, I know you. According to the Course, no matter who you are, we have known each other forever. If this is true, then you are no stranger; you are my ancient friend.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to walk out into the world and see every apparent stranger as an old and dear friend? You might break a few social conventions. You might get an occasional harsh reaction. Yet you couldn’t help but feel happier, and more whole. How could you not feel whole when you saw everyone as being part of you? The Course teaches that we will only remember our true wholeness when we embrace all those who are included in it. The real benefit, then, of not limiting our sense of closeness to a chosen few is the realization that we ourselves are not limited. The real benefit of seeing no strangers is the discovery that we are everyone.
Seeing no strangers, however, takes practice. I have included a practice from the Course that you can try out if you like. Pick a few people on the outskirts of your life and silently repeat these words, slowly and intentionally, to each one in turn. See what happens.
I would see you as my friend,
that I may remember you are part of me
and come to know myself.
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]